(Brampton) - Sexual health; marijuana, alcohol and drug use; and sun safety are three of the eight issues examined in Student Health 2005, Peel Public Health's comprehensive report of youth health behaviours released today.
More than 7,300 Peel youth in grades 7 through 12 across both the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board and the Peel District School Board completed the survey. The report, which shows Peel youth enjoy relatively good health by provincial and national standards, reveals some disturbing trends.
"Peel youth are experimenting with sex, alcohol and marijuana at very young ages," said Dr. Howard Shapiro, Acting Medical Officer of Health for the Region of Peel. "They're also unlikely to take the necessary precautions to protect themselves from the cancer-causing effects of the sun or from serious injuries while cycling, in-line skating or downhill skiing."
One in four (26%) Peel students in grades 9 to 12 had sexual intercourse in the last year. Two in three (62%) of those sexually-active students first had sex when they were 15 years of age or younger. Forty per cent of sexually-active students sometimes or always have sex when they are either drunk or high.
Two in every three (68%) Peel students have tried alcohol. Of these, one in three (33%) tried alcohol when they were in Grade 6 or earlier, and 70% tried it before they entered high school. One in every four (26%) students has tried marijuana and 38% of these students first tried it before they entered high school.
Over half (57%) of all Peel students have been sunburned and most do not make regular efforts to protect themselves from the sun. Two or more sunburns as a young person puts most people at risk of cancer later in life. Fewer than one in every five students wear a helmet always or most of the time when they ride a bicycle, go in-line skating or go downhill skiing.
"This survey is the largest of its kind ever conducted in Canada ," said Susan DiMarco, Regional Councillor and Chair of the Human Services Committee. "The results of this survey will be used to support and plan programs that protect and improve the health of Peel's children today and generations of adults in the future."
Student Health 2005 is the first major study of youth behaviour conducted by Peel Health. The study was undertaken to fill significant gaps in Peel-specific information that made it difficult to create a comprehensive picture of youth health in the region. Findings from the survey will not only inform Peel Health's programs but also act as a benchmark for community organizations, school boards, parents and other individuals and groups concerned with the health of school-age children.
The Region of Peel is a diverse community of over one million people, and is one of the largest public health regions in Canada.
For more information on the Student Health 2005 report, call Health Line Peel at 905-799-7700 or visit peelregion.ca.
A six-page summary of this 200+ page report can be found on peelregion.ca under News and Events.